18 August 2010

I Guess I Really Am A Woman Now

Yesterday I went to my gynecologist.  Over the weekend, I felt a few twinges and noticed a yeasty smell.  So I called her office on Monday and yesterday she confirmed what I thought.

“A yeast infection?  I guess I’m really a woman now,” I quipped.

“Next thing you know, you’re going to have your period.”

“And then I won’t need a turkey baster…”

We both giggled.  But then, I thought aloud, “Well, maybe I’m getting off easy, not having a period or worrying about pregnancy.”

“Don’t ever think that!” she implored.  “You’re just as much of a woman as we are.  In fact, even more so.”
“What do you mean?”

“Well, I was born a woman.  So were most other women. But you had to choose to become one, and work at it.”

Not long ago, I would have debated that point.  But I realized that while I was born with a female essence, mind and spirit, I had to make the choice to be a woman—or, more precisely, to live as one. 

That has meant, of course, changing my body so that it is more congruent with the person I am.  It has also meant a name change and the other logistical changes one normally associates with gender transition and reassignment. 

But it has also meant changes in my milieu.  People who were part of my life before I embarked on this journey are no longer with me.  They include a friend--who, at one time, was the closest I’d had—who has become bitter and resentful of just about everybody.  She extended those feelings toward me because, she believed, I had no right to live as a woman because I never have, and never will, menstruate.  (Should I say “never”?)  She believed that I was living as a woman in order to take advantage of Affirmative Action and take a job that rightfully belongs to a “real” woman.  Actually, she’s not that altruistic:  She thinks I’m going to take a job from her.  That, of course, is ludicrous because she and I have never applied for the same job—or the same anything else. 

Anyway, she and other people aren’t in my life any more.  Others have remained, but I also now have new friends who understand and love me as the person I am.  And those who have remained have changed—or, in some cases, become better versions of what they always were.  I’ve heard some trans people, and people who work with them, say that when someone “changes” gender, the people around them change even more.

The funny thing is that the people who know me best may not see me differently:  They may simply see me more clearly, or in greater depth.  They know, as my mother and Bruce—who have never met each other—have said, that I wasn’t “a typical straight guy.”  And, really, I had no capacity for becoming one.

But even if you have the capacity for becoming something, you have to become it.  That includes becoming a woman or a man.  The vast majority of people who are cisgendered have a head start in becoming the women or men they envision themselves to be. Those of us who are transgendered or intersexed may have to “work at it,” as my gynecologist says.  Or, perhaps, we simply have a longer—and sometimes more serpentine or circuitous—road. 

For everyone, though, it is a road, because—to paraphrase Sylvia Plath—being a woman or man isn’t a destination.  Rather, it’s a country through which our journeys take us.  I didn’t arrive at womanhood when I started taking hormones, changed my name or underwent my operation:  Each of those milestones marks particular stages of the road that I have followed on my journey into womanhood.

Does that make me more of a woman, as Ronica says, or less of one, as others claim?  Frankly, I don’t think it matters:  This is where I am now, the day after my first (and, I hope—if unrealistically—last) yeast infection.


Miss Kitty said...

Your gyno makes an interesting point--I'd never thought of it that way.

[wanders off, lost in thought]

Justine Valinotti said...

Miss Kitty: Yes, it is interesting. I guess she was saying that who and what we are isn't all about body functions and genetics.

It's nice to have a gyno--and a cisgendered person--who has such a perception.